Sheriff Kevin Sproul Discusses New Laws in Effect July 1st

Sheriff Kevin Sproul

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

Each year on the first of July, new laws come into effect. Some of the new laws, or changes to old laws, have already become effective but the majority take effect on July 1st. Part of the routine at the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office each June is making sure we are familiar with any changes that affect us and our operation. We must ensure we are up to date on any changes to criminal and traffic laws and any laws related to criminal procedure. We rely heavily on agencies like the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association and the Prosecuting Attorney Council to keep us informed and provide us with the latest information. 

As we go through this process, it always occurs to me that there are some changes the general public may not be aware of. Here are a few: 

Do you remember the issues surrounding UGA football star Todd Gurley? He lost his chances for a Heisman trophy due to charges of selling his signature. The Georgia Legislature has responded by enacting a new law which now makes it unlawful to solicit anything from a student athlete if the transaction would likely cause the student athlete to lose either their scholarship, their ability to play college sports or to be suspended from any games. Go Dawgs, the Gold Dome has your back! 

The gun laws were further clarified in that the prohibition against carrying firearms into a polling place was amended to apply only when that location was actually being used as a polling place. In many areas, temporary polling places are established in various locations and the previous law seemed to prohibit the carry of firearms into those places even when they were not being used as such. The law also clarified that if a person was fingerprinted to obtain a carry permit, they cannot be fingerprinted again upon renewal.

Police dogs are extremely valuable tools for law enforcement. A new law will make the harming of a law enforcement animal punishable by up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine. This law also allows for restitution of all veterinary bills and the replacement cost of the animal. 

The charge of harassing phone calls has been expanded to “harassing communications” and now includes text messages, e-mail, or any form of electronic communication. In addition, if a person allows another to use their electronic device to send a harassing communication, that person may also be charged. 

Child pornography is a terrible crime. One way that offenders have tried to skirt around the law is by editing pornographic photos using the bodies of young adults but the head and/or face of a juvenile.  Now, if any person intentionally causes a minor to be identified as the individual in such a photo, they can be charged.

Individuals driving a commercial vehicle are no longer allowed to drive while holding a wireless telecommunications device (such as a cell phone). CB radios are an exception. 

There has been a “move over” law in Georgia for a few years now. The law requires drivers to move over to an adjacent lane if law enforcement has someone pulled over on the side of the road. Now there is another “move over” law; this one applies to sanitation trucks and carries a $250 fine.

I have purposely not touched on the medical marijuana law or the new fireworks regulations because they have already received so much media attention. However, if you have any questions about those laws, the ones I have touched on, or any others, please feel free to contact my office at 229-430-6508.

About Sheriff Kevin Sproul

Sheriff Kevin Sproul is a longtime resident of Dougherty County. He is a graduate of Albany High School, Darton College and LaGrange College of Albany. Sproul has been employed with the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office since 1982 and can be reached at (229) 430-6508.